Gallop signing is a shrewd move by FFA
Former chief executive of the Australian Rugby League Commission David Gallop. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Football Federation Australia has pulled off a spectacular coup by recruiting David Gallop, as there is no doubt the former head of the NRL is one of the best sports administrators in the business.
When Gallop was named chief executive of the five-year-old National Rugby League in 2002, he took charge of a competition riddled with problems.
South Sydney’s return made for a lopsided 15-team competition, the Northern Eagles were set for a messy divorce and Canterbury’s systematic rorting of the salary cap saw them stripped of 37 of their 41 points earned shortly before the finals.
Yet by the time Gallop was unceremoniously dumped as the game’s figurehead ten years later – some say by those with an axe to grind because he started his sports career as a lawyer for Super League – the competition was in rude health with more money, bigger crowds and better on-field action than ever before.
Not only did Gallop oversee that dramatic transformation, he did so despite the distraction of constant player misbehaviour, external bickering between media rights bidders and the prevailing attitude of many both in and outside the game that rugby league was a mere working class sport with little use for the advantages of professionalism.
And when the time came to make hard decisions, Gallop made them.
His decision to strip the Storm of their 2007 and 2009 titles for massive salary cap breaches made him public enemy number one in Melbourne, yet the po-faced Gallop stuck to his guns.
He’s exactly the kind of no-nonsense administrator the FFA needs – a straight-talking, well-connected leader with the ability to draw multiple stakeholders together for the benefit of a common goal.
In this case the goal is improving the A-League and the fortunes of Australia’s national teams and in that regard Gallop will rightly be scrutinised closely by football fans.
There will be those who are sceptical about Gallop’s sporting background, claiming a more football-savvy adminstrator should have been hired to oversee the code’s development.
But the truth is there aren’t too many of those on the market – at least not in Australia – and the respective rugby union and AFL backgrounds of John O’Neill and Ben Buckley didn’t stop FFA from hiring them previously.
The latter will make his exit after football’s next television rights deal is signed, with the new deal set to be Buckley’s long-lasting legacy to the game.
After a six-year tenure in charge marred by the demise of North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United and Australia’s unsuccessful World Cup bid, Buckley won’t exactly receive a fond farewell from the football community.
There’s little doubt his momentum flagged in the wake of Australia’s misguided attempt to host the World Cup, with rumours abounding FFA chairman Frank Lowy lost much of his faith in Buckley following the debacle.
But while it’s easy to put the boot into Buckley for his administrative failures, it should also be remembered that overseeing football in a competitive sports market like Australia is a tough gig for anyone to handle.
Which is why FFA should be congratulated for hiring Gallop.
Not only does the 47-year-old have vast experience on the Australian sporting landscape, he also has the ear of a wealth of heavy-hitting contacts.
What’s more, he has a point to prove to those who ousted him from the renamed Australian Rugby League Commission in June.
In the battle to strengthen its grip in the Australian sporting marketplace, football has just signed one of Australian sport’s biggest players.
And rugby league’s loss will almost certainly be football’s gain.
Because if Gallop can drive the kind of progress with the A-League that he did with the NRL, then football will take another step towards ingraining itself as one of Australia’s most popular sports.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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